Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Little Blue Girl

Artist: James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903)
Historical period(s)
Oil on canvas
H x W: 74.7 x 50.5 cm (29 7/16 x 19 7/8 in)
United States
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Oil painting

child, United States

From 1903 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from the artist in 1903 [1]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [2]


[1] See Original Whistler List, Paintings, pg. 1, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. According to Curatorial Remark 3, GD Guest, 1945, in the object record: "In reviewing the matter of the purchase of the painting [F1903.89], it transpires that a voucher covering its purchase was not included amongst the files sent from Detroit to Washington in 1920. But a search of the Whistler Letters reveals the fact that the oil painting, Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Little Blue Girl, as the artist just called it, was actually bought and paid for in 1894. A signed note from Mr. Whistler, dated 28 November 1894, acknowledges the receipt of a cheque to cover its cost and that of three drawings in pastel and water color (see Whistler Letters, no. 37). The painting, however, remained in Mr. Whistler's possession until his death, and Mr. Freer finally received it in August 1903. It is this date, and not the date of the cheque, which accounts for the entry in the original Purchase List and for the registration number, F1903.89, subsequently given to it...the frame designed for the painting was worked upon at some time between the date of actual purchase, 1894, and the date of the acquirement, 1903." See also, Curatorial Remark 4, David Park Curry, 1984, in the object record, as well as the Label Text Notes in the object record.

[2] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

James McNeill Whistler (C.L. Freer source) 1834-1903
Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919


Charles Lang Freer commissioned this painting in 1894, which Whistler described as “a figure to, in a way, hint at ‘Spring.’” He continued to work on it through 1896 as his wife, Beatrice, lay dying of cancer. Whistler confided to his patron that the act of painting helped ease his grief. The multiple layers of paint around the model’s face suggest an almost obsessive reworking of the surface. “I write to you many letters on your canvas,” Whistler explained to Freer.

Published References
  • Helen Nebeker Tomlinson. West Meets East: Charles L. Freer Trailblazing Asian Art Collector. Herndon, Virginia. Insert p. 6.
  • Freer Gallery of Art. Gallery Book IX: Exhibition of May 2nd, 1923. Washington. .
  • Andrew McLaren Young, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer. The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler. Studies in British Art 2 vols. New Haven, 1980. vol. 2: pls. 426-428.
  • Bunkio Matsuki. James A. McNeill Whistler: In Memoriam. vol. 5. p. 9.
  • Robin Spencer. James McNeill Whistler. British Artists. p. 19.
  • David Park Curry. James McNeill Whistler at the Freer Gallery of Art. Washington and New York, 1984. pp. 24, 152, 152, pl. 61.
  • , Gary Levine, Robert R. Praeto, Francine Tyler. La Femme: The Influence of Whistler and Japanese Print Masters on American Art, 1880-1917. Exh. cat. New York, October 26 - December 30, 1983. p. 38.
  • Thomas Lawton, Linda Merrill. Freer: a legacy of art. Washington and New York, 1993. p. 47, fig. 33.
  • With Kindest Regards: The Correspondence of Charles Lang Freer and James McNeill Whistler 1890-1903. Washington. p. 50, pl. 2.
  • Elisabeth Luther Cary. The Works of James McNeill Whistler: A Study., 1st ed. New York, 1907. cat. 26, p. 59.
  • Susan Hobbs. A Connoisseur's Vision of America: The American Collection of Charles Lang Freer., August 1977. p. 96.
  • James Laver. Whistler., 2nd ed. London. p. 129.
  • Bernhard Sickert. Whistler. London and New York. cat. 122, p. 167.
  • Linda Merrill. The Peacock Room: A Cultural Biography. Washington and New Haven. p. 321, fig. 7.15.
Collection Area(s)
American Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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